But in the weeks immediately following the tragedy, they were flooded with ads-mostly unpaid condolence and assistance ads. Relief-effort and public-service advertising by the Red Cross, Salvation Army and the federal government via the Federal Emergency Management Agency appeared online through December. The top hosts of Red Cross interactive ads through Oct. 22 included Juno, eBay, RealNetworks, AudioGalaxy, iVillage and AOL Time Warner's America Online and CNN, according to Jupiter Media Metrix data.
While free ads are hardly ideal for publishers, the crisis allowed surfers to see Web properties in a different light. But Internet media watchers said it's still too early to tell whether carriage of sympathy ads generated a halo effect on Internet brands. Like the TV and cable networks, which went for days without paid advertising, Internet media behaved similarly. Even X10's ubiquitous and invasive pop-up ads were withdrawn for a time, replaced with public service ads.
While financial services, retail and travel advertising suffered the most, there is some evidence that online travel advertising is coming back stronger than before the attacks. For example, for the week ended Feb. 18, online travel advertising registered a 35% increase above the pre-9/11 peak it had reached during the last week in August, according to Jupiter. But there's plenty of rebuilding yet to be done online.